Twenty-one Women of Legal Tech were honored at the 2020 Women of Legal Tech Summit in Chicago last week.
The ABA Legal Technology Resource Center‘s Women of Legal Tech initiative is intended to encourage diversity and celebrate women in legal technology. One of the American Bar Association’s core values is a commitment to diversity, which the Law Practice Division aims to reinforce in the legal tech sector. From tech founders and CEOs to small business owners, women are making a big impact on legal tech in every field.
There are now 121 Women of Legal Tech, with the LTRC Board including Heidi Alexander, the initiative’s founder, among those honored this year. As it has in recent years, the one-day Women of Legal Tech Summit ran in association with ABA TECHSHOW, which Heidi co-chaired this year.
The LTRC Board selected 20 new honorees from almost 200 nominations this year. The list of honorees has grown since 2015, when Heidi Alexander — our own organization’s Deputy Director and Mass LOMAP Director — created the initiative. The 2020 Class includes:
- Linn Alfredsson | Founder and Project Manager at Tech Academy Nordic
- Charity Anastasio (@charityanas) | Practice Management Advisor for the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Practice & Professionalism Center
- Bernadette Bulacan Starin (@InHouse_Bern) | Lead Evangelist at Icertis
- Veronica Canton (@vlgac) | Partner and Co-Founder of Impowerus
- Lisa Colpoys (@lcolpoys) | Program Director at the Insitute for the Future of Law Practice
- Stephanie Everett (@StephAEverett) | President of Lawyerist.com
- Lori Gonzalez (@RayNaCorp)| CEO of The RayNa Corporation
- Christie Guimond (@cguimond11) | Co-Founder of #SheBreakstheLaw
- Sirisha Gummaregula | COO of QuisLex
- Margaret Hagan (@margarethagan) | Director of the Legal Design Lab
- Hannah Konitshek | Head of Business Operations and Strategy at Legal.io
- Mary Mack | CEO and Chief Legal Technologist at EDRM
- The Honorable Bridget McCormack (@BridgetMaryMc) | Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court
- Dorna Moini (@dorna_moini) | Founder and CEO of Documate
- Kathleen Orr | Senior Innovation Counsel at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
- Donna Payne | CEO of PayneGroup, Inc.
- Farrah Pepper | Chief Legal Innovation Counsel at Marsh & McLennan Companies
- Jayne Reardon (@JayneRReardon)| Executive Director at the Illinois Supreme Court’s Commission on Professionalism
- Carla Reyes (@Prof_CarlaReyes) | Director of Michigan State University’s Center of Law & Innovation and LegalRnD Lab
- Sarah Schaaf | CEO of Headnote
Women of Legal Tech is a key initiative when women are outnumbered by male legal tech owners 6 to 1, as reported by Molly McDonough on Robert Ambrogi’s Lawsites Blog covering the Women of Legal Tech Summit.
The lack of diversity in legal tech extends further. As reported in an ABA Journal article (and also reported on LawSites) — with women making up 13.6% of legal tech founders, only 2.3% are Black.
With white women outnumbering Black women in the C-Suite 5 to 1, we need to work for intersectional diversity. Law Professor Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, a founder of critical race theory, introduced the theory of intersectionality in a 1989 paper, emphasizing how the experience living as a Black woman “cannot be understood in terms of being Black and of being a woman considered independently, but must include the interactions between the two, which frequently reinforce each other.”
And as Safaya Fawzi, Associate Director for the Diversity & Inclusion Center at the ABA points out in Diversity & Inclusion: Understanding Buzzwords and Moving Beyond Them Toward Innovation, “Some of the most obvious examples come from reversing gender-based bias in the workplace, such as extending paid parental leave to all parents (which acknowledges the historical and present lack of value placed on raising children and other “women’s work”), or reviewing job descriptions to remove words that have a gendered connotation (such as “charismatic” and “hacker”, avoiding pronouns, and stating salary ranges within job descriptions); some work to review “name-blind” resumes, which can also address race and ethnicity bias. That most of the money, emphasis, and impact toward D&I is still somewhat stagnant about addressing racial inequities specifically may be reflective of the deeper issues that effective and innovative D&I work seeks to address.”
To improve diversity anywhere in the legal profession, we need answers to important questions like why Black women in particular leave the practice of law. As pointed out by Paulette Brown, past president of the ABA at Strength in Numbers: Celebrating African American Representation in the Law, a recent event hosted by the Massachusetts Black Women Attorneys, the ABA has been able to study the numbers on senior women in general leave, but there isn’t enough data on Black women in senior positions, having been unjustly denied those opportunities, for findings studying why women in marginalized groups leave to be considered statistically significant.
Concerns in line with imposter syndrome were discussed both at the Women of Legal Tech Summit and at Strength in Numbers. One of the best solutions for those who feel isolated by imposter syndrome is coming together to recognize we’re not working alone. Also as Molly McDonough pointed out, we are fortunate to have leaders like Temi Siyanbade of @TOSLegal, who has “has made it her mission to tackle self-confidence hurdles and empower leaders.”